Talking about “Iconic Books” in the Terminology of Book History

Authors

  • Deirdre C. Stam Long Island University and Trustee of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v6i1-3.23

Keywords:

book history, iconic books, descriptive bibliography, material culture, books, terminology

Abstract

“The book” in its many guises today provides fertile ground for the study of the many disciplines and professions in which it has played a central part. Long recognized as significant as a carrier of text, the book has lately been seen also as an example of material culture. A consideration of the book’s physical properties and uses can provide new insights into the practices and unarticulated beliefs of a cultural community. Here we consider the potential of “the book” for insights into the study of religion. The focus is on “iconic” books, a subset of books that seems intuitively recognizable as a genre, but is variously understood by the writers of the essays in this collection. It is not only the nature of iconicity that begs for definition here, but also, more specifically, the specific aspects of “the book” that cause it to be recognized as iconic. Does its iconicity spring, for example, from the beauty of the copy? The primacy of the edition and printing? The provenance of the object? As “the book” gains attention, the subject cries out for specific, stable, shared terminology to allow meaningful discussion of its elements across disciplines and fields. Such terminology can be found in the field of Book History, a discipline that has its roots in the world of Gutenberg and continues to flourish in the internet age. This paper discusses terminology. It explores various approaches to defining “iconic,” it traces the evolution of the terminology of book history, and it presents a sample of particularly pertinent terms from that discipline to clarify future discussions of aspects of an “iconic book.”

Author Biography

Deirdre C. Stam, Long Island University and Trustee of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Following a career in teaching library and information science (especially humanities applications) and serving as chief executive of information organizations, Deirdre C. Stam is currently serving as Trustee of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation in New York City.

References

Ahearn, Allen. 1989. Book Collecting: A Comprehensive Guide. New York: Putnam, 1989.

Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. “Glossary” and “Learn about Rare Books.” http://hq.abaa.org/books/antiquarian/abaapages/glossary Accessed 18 March 2011.

Bible. 1767. London: Printed by Mark Baskett. [Known as the “Washington Bible” and used on occasion for presidential inaugurations since that of George Washington; owned by the Masonic St. John’s Lodge No. 1].

Bowers, Fredson. 1949. Principles of Bibliographical Description. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Brown, Michelle P. 1994. Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms. Malibu, CA and London: J. Paul Getty Museum and the British Library.

Carter, John, and Nicholas Barker. 2004. ABC for Book Collectors, 8th ed. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press; London: British Library, [Note: John Carter was sole author of the previous 7 editions.] This work is online at http://www.ilab.org/eng/documentation/29-abc_for_book_collectors.html [Note underscoring between title words. Accessed 18 March 2011.

Clausen Books; Gutenberg Bible Census. www.clausenbooks.com/gutenbergcensus.htm Accessed 18 March 2011.

Darnton, Robert. 1979. The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie, 1775–1800. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Early English Books Online. http://eebo.chadwyck.com Accessed 18 March 2011. [Note: EEBO is a subscription service, available through many research libraries.]

Eliot, John [translator]. 1660–1663. The Holy Bible…Translated into the Indian Language… Cambridge, MA: Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson.

English Short-Title Catalog (1473–1800). http://estc.ucr.edu Accessed 18 March 2011.

Gaskell, Philip. 1972. A New Introduction to Bibliography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gingerich, Owen. 2002. An Annotated Census of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus. Leiden: Brill.

Grafton, Anthony. 1997. Commerce with the Classics: Ancient Books and Renaissance Readers. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

———. 2008. Codex in Crisis. New York: The Crumpled Press.

Greg, W. W. 1951. A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration. London: Printed for the Bibliographical Society at the University Press, Oxford.

Hitler, Adolph. 1925. Mein Kampf. Munich: Franz Eher.

Hobbs, Vanessa. 2009. Comment following “Iconic: The Adjective of the Age.” The Economist: More Intelligent Life, Spring. http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/cover-whats-iconic-and-whats-not Accessed March 18, 2012.

Holy Bible. 1631. [“The Wicked Bible” or “The Adulterous Bible” or “The Sinners’ Bible.”] London: Robert Barker and Martin Lucas [Royal Printers].

The Holy Bible. 1935. Appointed to be Read in Churches. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Known as the “Oxford Lectern Bible.”]

The Iconic Books Blog. http://iconicbooks.blogspot.com/ Accessed 18 March 2011.

Koran. [Alcoran of Mohammed. Translated by George Sale.] 1734. London: Hawes, Clarke, Collins and Wilcox.

McKenzie, Donald. 1986. Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts: The Panizzi Lectures. London: The British Library.

McKerrow, Ronald B. 1927. An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Meades, Jonathan. 2009. “Iconic: The Adjective of the Age.” The Economist: More Intelligent Life, Spring. http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/cover-whats-iconic-and-whats-not

Meyer, Stephanie. 2005. Twilight. New York: Little, Brown. Also in the series: New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007), and Breaking Dawn (2008).

National Heritage Museum: George Washington’s Inaugural Bible. http://nationalheritagemuseum.typepad.com/library_and_archives/2009/01/george-washingtons-inaugural-bible.html Accessed 18 March 2011.

Rare Book School [located at the University of Virginia]. http://www.rarebookschool.org/ Accessed 18 March 2011.

Rombauer, Irma von Starkloff; Marion Rombauer Becker; and Ginnie Hofmann. c. 1951. The Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co.

Schedel, Hartmann. 1493. Liber Chronicarum. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger. [Printed without title page; known in English as The Nuremberg Chronicle.]

Updike, John. 1995. Rabbit Angstrom: a tetraology. New York: Knopf. Contains these works: Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981), Rabbit At Rest (1990), and Rabbit Remembered (2001).

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 1943. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Company. doi: 10.1558/post.v6.1–3.39-66

Published

2012-06-27

How to Cite

Stam, D. C. (2012). Talking about “Iconic Books” in the Terminology of Book History. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 6(1-3), 23–38. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v6i1-3.23

Issue

Section

Articles